Over the past few years, we have become very interested in the field of Integral Philosophy. Integral thought explores what we can learn by understanding more deeply the process of evolution, especially the evolution of consciousness and culture. This way of thinking about the world has expanded and deepened our work with individuals and couples. It has also given us a fresh and hopeful way to view what’s going on in our complex, and sometimes frightening world.
Many people we talk with say they find the TV news depressing and even offensive. In the interview below, Jeff Salzman, an Integral thinker from right here in Colorado, offers a more hopeful view. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have!
Our first tip is called PRESUME SANITY.
Your relationship will benefit from assuming that you are in love with a person who is sane, reasonable, thoughtful and different from you. Viva la difference! If your partner always sees things the way you see them, your relationship would be boring and dull.
Often when we are in the middle of a fight with our partner we think to ourselves something like: “What you just said does not make any sense at all.” Then we argue our side of the fight even stronger trying to convince the other person of the wisdom or rightness of our point of view.
We dispute the relevance or accuracy of what our partner just said to bolster their viewpoint. This kind of fighting is like skeet shooting, i.e. let me see how many of your ideas I can shoot down.
When using this strategy you are invariably infuriating your partner even as you are trying to settle the dispute. Why? Because you are saying to them (in words or attitude) “You are not making sense!” At its core this statement is a gigantic dismissal of the other person’s intellect and thinking. It tends to elicit anger and renewed attacks from their side of the battle line.
When we look closely at the deeper message in the communication, what we find is that you are non-verbally communicating to your partner, “You are not believable because you are not making MY sense.” When viewed through this filter, it becomes evident that you have become arrogant and pompous and that you are passing judgment on the other’s ideas because they do not agree with your own. In short, you have become an ass.
Imagine how different your behavior would be if you thought to yourself: “Everything that you say and do is always making sense from inside your world view. If I knew more about what you were thinking I could understand why you just said that.” We call this PRESUMING SANITY.
Indeed this is completely true. Your partner is always making sense to themselves. You are in love with a sane, reasonable, thoughtful and considerate person who is currently dealing with a problem in a manner that is different from yours.
Viva la difference. If we married someone who thought just like us life would be stale and boring. The hidden function of marital disagreements is to bring the partners closer together through improved self-esteem, healthy adult negotiation skills and excellence in communication.
One primary skill that needs to be mastered to become a competent partner is the skill of sustaining two subjective realities simultaneously. There will always be your view and your partners view operating at all times. Viewing your partner as “the opposition” and shooting down their ideas is a losing strategy. It sets up a winner/ loser posture and guarantees that even when you “win” the argument, you create more distance and competition inside the relationship.
We work to be respectful in order to uphold the adult functions of equality and mutuality. You know that you are always making sense, right? You think it should be obvious to the people around you. Why not extend that same privilege to the people with whom you are talking? When you both presume sanity in the other, gentle mutual conflict resolution occurs almost all the time.
Written by Howard Lambert, PhD